Local hosting is the key to Internet development in Africa

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Michael Kende, ISOC’s Chief Economist and co-author of the report

Local hosting is key to the development of the internet ecosystem in emerging countries, according to a report released by the Internet Society.

The report, Promoting Local Content Hosting to Develop the Internet Ecosystem, co-authored by Michael Kende and Karen Rose, Senior Director, Internet Society’s Office of Strategy and Research, uses Rwanda as a case study in exploring those dynamics, working in close partnership with the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MyICT) in Rwanda and the Rwanda Information and Communication Technology Association (RICTA). While focused on Rwanda, the situation there is common in many developing countries.

They analysed the following key areas to develop the report.

Cost

Almost all of the commercial websites in Rwanda are hosted abroad. A small savings for the content providers in hosting it abroad results in significantly higher costs for the ISPs to access the content. For one of the larger Rwandan websites that was examined, the content developer saved USD$111 per year by hosting overseas, while it cost the Rwandan ISPs approximately USD$13,500 in transit costs to deliver the content from abroad to local users.

Latency

The delay experienced by users in Rwanda to download a webpage can frequently be five seconds or more, and this can increase for webpages composed of multiple elements. The cumulative effect can make the overall Internet experience slow and frustrating, with a corresponding negative impact on usage. This can also limit the viability of interactive and data-intensive services such as gaming or video streaming, which depend on low latency.

While local content hosting is a key element for creating a vibrant local Internet economy, the report notes that the focus for policy makers, companies, and content entrepreneurs, should be on creating a positive enabling environment that will incentivise local hosting and service development and thereby offer content providers a local choice, rather than imposing measures that artificially require local hosting.

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